While I understand that the United Kingdom and China have a treaty with each other regarding the handover of Hong Kong (related question), as far as I'm aware, Australia was not a signatory to such a treaty. While Australia was a former colony of the UK, and is a member of the Commonwealth, I can hardly see Australia being legally obliged to honour the conditions of a treaty signed by the UK in 1984.

Hong Kong has a separate immigration system from China, and holders of Hong Kong passports are already treated differently from holders of ordinary PRC passports, so it's not as if Australia is creating a new division between China and Hong Kong, as if Australia were proclaiming the existence of a place called East Turkestan.

Yet there's reports that Australia's offer to HK residents is likely to infuriate China.

What is China's objection to Australia's plans? I'm interested in both official rationales, and any unofficial reasons.

  • Is there any reason to think the legal details of this or any other international move has any bearing on who may be infuriated?
    – Jontia
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


This move is akin to saying that any citizen of Hong Kong has the right to claim refuge from the Chinese government. Of course they're not calling the people actual refugees as that would involve lots more international law (and the Australian government doesn't have a good relationship with refugees in general...) but the insult is the same: Australia and any other countries who do likewise will be saying that the Chinese government is a threat to its ordinary citizens, and that they feel they have a duty of care to any Hong Kong citizens currently resident in their lands. This isn't a move that countries on good terms would make against each other. It's perhaps one of the strongest moves a country like Australia can make to show its disapproval with how China is handling Hong Kong.


There will be two parts to this.

Firstly, China will see this as meddling in its internal affairs. China sees the controversial National Security Law as an internal matter, and does not think it is appropriate for any other countries to meddle in their internal affairs.

Secondly, if a large number of Hong Kong residents take Australia up on that offer, that would lead to a significant brain drain in the territory. A loss of talent, especially on a large scale, would be a hit to the Hong Kong economy, and would risk its place in the global economy.

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